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learning with professionals - Higgins Counterterrorism Research ...

of law where courses concerning these methods have been offered for over a decade in

several prominent law schools. The present course draws upon the experience gained in

these attempts to provide persons with better methods for making sense out of masses

of evidence. Our view is that these methods represent one very important step in

attempts to close the collection-analysis methods gap mentioned above. These analytic

methods cannot be learned effectively just by listening to lectures about them. Nor can

they be learned by just listening to first-hand accounts of successful analyses or by

post-mortem accounts of analytic failures. They can only be learned by hands-on experience

with collections of evidence whose meaning must be established by imaginative

and critical thought. The major part of this course will involve your performing three

assignments involving collections of various kinds of intelligence data whose meaning

is to be established. The major purpose of these assignments is to help you acquire habits

of imaginative and critical thought that will serve you well when it becomes your

turn to try to make sense out of a mass of evidence in some situation vital to our

nation’s defense. Here is a brief review of our course objectives as they concern the

tasks of evidence marshaling and argument construction.

A. Objectives Concerning the Marshaling of Thoughts and Evidence

On some rare occasions we may be lucky to have what are termed “nuggets”— those

single items of credible evidence that immediately suggest important specific possibilities

or hypotheses to which we ought to attend carefully. If we had been in possession

of such nuggets in advance of September 11, 2001, we might have been able to prevent

the disaster that occurred. In most cases, however, lacking such nuggets, we must mine

and process enormous amounts of “lower grade evidential ore.” In such instances, new

possibilities or hypotheses are generated, discovered or suggested only by examining

combinations of information. Two or more items of information, considered together,

often suggest hypotheses that are not apparent when the items of information are considered

separately. The necessity for considering combinations of information in order

to generate new hypotheses exposes an extraordinarily difficult problem. The number of

possible combinations of two or more items of information increases exponentially

with the number of items we have. Even if we could examine all possible combinations

of our items of evidence, it would not make any sense to do so. This would be the act of

trying to look through everything in the hope of finding something. 262 Here is precisely

where useful methods for marshaling, organizing and combining our thoughts and evidence

become so important.

Intelligence information rarely, if ever, comes to us already organized or marshaled

in ways that immediately suggest new hypotheses or possibilities. Experienced intelligence

analysts adopt a variety of methods for organizing the information they receive or

request. Developing strategies for marshaling our thoughts and evidence that are useful

262 The number of combinations C of two or more items of information, when we have n items of information,

is the number C = 2n - (n+1). When n is just 10, C = 1013; for n = 50, C ≈ 1.3(10)15; for n = 100, C ≈

1.26(10)30.

127

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